Universe W-2020: The Sideshows 12
July 13th, 2013
The Fishing Trip: Part II
Alvey Fratto is a simple man with a simple philosophy: if there is a job to do, it must be done. Born into a lower-class family in the early 80s, Alvey grew up in Backwoods, Tennessee watching his parents work hard for a living. And work hard they did: his father, Bastion, began working hard part-time as a custodial engineer at a large hotel chain called Rooms For Daze right around the time Alvey was born. Alvey watched with sparkles in his little eyes as his father spent his entire life working hard for that hotel chain, going from bathroom scrubber and surreptitious fluid mopper to head custodian, then all the way to a concierge position. He didn’t stop there though; being a man of work ethic and determination, Bastion eventually muscled his way up to ownership of the hotel’s branch he operated in. On the day he got his final promotion, the hotel staff threw him a huge party and the CEO made it a point to take him aside and sincerely thank him for all the great hard work he did over the years. Bastion got a fancy new brass nametag, a legitimate palm-to-palm handshake, and a large bonus paycheck. Finally things were working out, things were going to be okay for the Fratto clan! For the first time in Fratto history, Bastion could tell his family those words and they could actually ring true.
On his way home from the staff party, whilst he was practicing the speech he was going to deliver to the audience of his wife and child, the road unfortunately split open right in front of Bastion. As it turned out, a literal secret underground government project built to weaponize earthquakes was being tested in close proximity to the town of Backwoods, the experiment of course creating a narrow yet bottomless fissure underneath the road Bastion, and an innumerable amount of other innocent civilians, was driving down that fateful night. The shattered Earth, provoked into a state of ravenous hanger, swallowed Bastion whole, car and all, before immediately closing back up. There were no traces left of the unsuspecting fat bastard besides his new branch-owner nametag which flew out of his shirt pocket when his vehicle was plummeting into what Bastion believed was the pits of hell itself. Or perhaps he threw it out the window, his final moments dedicated to making sure his family had something to remember him by, something to show his first born and only son that hard work really does pay off.
Regardless, Bastion died brilliantly when Alvey was twelve and the nametag went completely unnoticed to the road workers who repaved the road later in the week. Alvey’s mother, Bella, told Alvey what she genuinely believed was the truth: his father abandoned them, likely for another woman and one who hadn’t reared children at that. Alvey listened at the time, but eventually forgot. Such is life.
The Dollarism Game
After the disappearance of Bastion Fratto, Bella and Alvey did their best to get by. Bella took up a third job, working as a waitress, a competitive conga-line dancer, and an activities planner for a nearby year-round summer camp. By the time Alvey was fifteen, his mom was making more than enough to support her own minimalistic lifestyle on top of giving her precious Alvey a good life, and that was all that mattered. She dedicated her whole life to her son, always making sure to support him and to be there for him whenever he needed, ensuring her little man never felt bad about losing his dad. It worked, too; Alvey accepted the loss of his father at a young age like a good little boy, like a strong boy, and he was able to move on with his life in stride, graduating college with a Master’s degree in business management at twenty-two.
Alvey’s college graduation took place around the same time that New Manhattan, the new business capital of America, was opened to the public; it was still a normal city at that point and the wall had not yet been constructed, so he was able to easily find a place to live. He carved out a neat little niche for himself appraising real estate, which brought him the stature of owning more than a few apartments in a large housing project called the Shaggy Hawke. He would rent these rooms out last-minute to busy executive businesstypes who were visiting the city on business trips, his customer base steadily growing as time went on and the wall went up. By the time the wall was complete in 2011, Alvey had an empire of apartments under his belt, more than two-thirds of the rentals in the Shaggy Hawke had his name on the deeds, and by the time The United States of America turned Untied, Alvey owned the Shaggy Hawke itself. A few months later though, when he noticed the city being taken over by the more, shall we say, eccentric business types, he sold off all his assets and got himself a nice little place in the outskirts of the city’s heart. At twenty-fourish years of age, our fatherless Backwoods boy became a self-made millionaire. Alvey fucking Fratto.
Following his undeniable success story, Alvey chose to live a quiet life, putting the majority of his money away in shoe boxes that he stashed all over his sprawling property. He enjoyed going for walks around the block, tending to the community garden that he founded, and chatting up all of the NewMann housewives who had nothing better to do than play petty mind games with their busy partners. Half the women were strict lesbians, but Alvey wasn’t in it for the sex, so he didn’t really care. He decided to take the plunge into asexuality when he graduated high school after having a let us call it tremendous experience including a girl with braces, a dark cave, and far, far too many frogs. Nothing would ever top that day, so Fratto the Alv’ decided to leave the hank-pank game a champion; nonetheless, he embarked into a few open relationships with a few of these women, some of them even lesbians, for reasons that he still doesn’t fully understand to this day.
Within a matter of months after leaving the Dollarism game for good, Alvey realized that he was entirely bored with his life. There was no job to do, so he just sat around all day slinging ass and being pleasant. Who the hell wants that?
So, one morning Mister Fratto donned his best suit and decided to go for a waddle through the streets of New Manhattan’s inner districts, where all the action happens. The further to the center of the city one travels the more lawless it becomes; after Gruncle Fred had his stroke celebrated ‘round the world, the NewMann police departments all turned volunteer-based to fight the asinine levels of corruption and scandal adrift in the city, but the problem was just extravagated. Plus, the criminals were beginning to faction off and develop their own flavors of technological weaponry, and the old city-wide force just couldn’t keep up. So, it splintered, each different district of the city gaining its very own volunteer police force. A heavy rivalry is present between the various districts, too; on the day he went for his walk, a police car chase involving the Narhorn and Monobrow districtsalmost flattened Alvey to the plasti’spa’junk, almost being the operative term; thankfully, some random guy with gray hair as thin as it was long bound into a ponytail pulled him out of the street at the last second, saving his life.
This man, who didn’t introduce himself in any way, shape, or form, offered Alvey a job right there on the spot. The man told Alvey that in a few days, the local Saint Clare’s Bank was to be robbed so a larger corporate bank could buy them out, a standard hostile takeover situation. The only problem was that the bank’s head of security, who just so happened to be married to one of Alvey’s open partners, was beginning to grow wise to the plan. The hostile takers needed a distraction, preferably of a home wrecking sort, and this is just where Alvey came in; our boy needed to keep one man from doing his job so a different group of men could do their job without hassle. Never being one to not do a job, Alvey did that which can probably go without saying and the robbery went off without a hitch.
The ponytailed man would go on to contact Alvey every so often with little odd jobs like this, Alvey receiving less and less big picture information with each new job he took on. By the time ‘13 rolled around, Alvey would simply get a text message with a location and a random thing to do, and he would go there and do it obediently and without question. Alvey didn’t know how the target was chosen, how the location was chosen, or what the purpose of these little missions were, but he didn’t really care, either. Alvey had become nothing more than a tool to this ponytail and the man attached, but this was just plain okay; if there was a job to be done, Alvey would get it done. Even if that job involved coordinating with some hillbillies to lure a strange man onto a plane and take him to some random lake for a falsely intimate fishing trip.
A Circular Space
“…and I’m telling you now, Mister Chuck Leary, Sir, after turning all those textbook pages in college, my hands were callusey, just covered in little paper cuts and nasty scabs that just wouldn’t turn into skin. Really gnarly, really manly hands. So I got this stuff called Hans’ Manly Man Hands Hand Cream Lotion, because, yanno, it seemed like a product that would really get the job done. I was not wrong, my friend; the next morning, my hands were as good as new!”
Alvey, broken from the trance induced by hearing his own voice, finally looks over to realize his travel companion had fallen asleep mid-conversation. A slightly peeved off Alvey mutters, “The nerve of these eccentric executives, golly gee,” under his breath before leaning back in his own seat and staring out the window. Before he nods off to sleep himself, Alvey sees a large patch of gray overcast consuming the otherwise blue sky in front of them, and he imagines himself floating in those clouds, so soft, so comfy, so…
When Alvey opens his eyes again he’s being dragged through the forest by a strange shape that smells just awful. Alvey struggles to move, to turn, to catch a glimpse of this creature and his likely hunched back, but he feels multiple sharp somethings stab into his back during each attempt, so he decides to abandon the venture. His eyelids are getting heavy again, or maybe his brain is just reeling from blood loss, who really knows?
Just as quickly as he came to, Alvey’s out like a light once more.
The next time Alvey wakes up, he finds himself in a dark and cold-humid place that he has to assume is a cavern. Our noble hero stands and begins to walk forwards, blindly, with both skinny arms stretched out in front of him until he finds a wall to lean on. He then traverses the entire cavern to create a map of his surroundings in his head, slipping and eating shit every time he comes to a possible exit and his hand runs out of wall to lean on.
After what feels like an hour of mental mapping, Alvey starts to get tired, so he staggers his way back to what should be the middle of the chamber and lies down on the ground. It’s never a bad time for a nap, amirite? As he drifts between levels of consciousness, Alvey tries to picture the floorplan of his chamber in his head – it’s a circular space, small as far as caverns go, with two tunnels leading out into the great unknown in exact opposite directions. Applying common sense, Alvey deduces that one exit must lead deeper within the cave system while the other must lead to the outside world. He decides that, after a short rest, he would mentally flip a coin and use the outcome to determine which of the exits he would venture down aimlessly until the darkness turned to light. And if he never comes to the light, well, then he’ll die trying. Alvey has a new job to do – he must find his way out of this cave, and when he does, he’s really going to give that ponytailed man what for. Who does he think he is, anyway? Recruiting this random hard-working man to do these menial little odd jobs, most of which are probably related to real crimes. Alvey decides right then and there, laying on the dirty and slightly moist cavern floor, that he will never be taken advantage of again.
After a quick nap.
The Brothers ‘Billy
“…eewwwww iiiiiiIIIITTTTTTTT SSSSHHHHHIIIIIITTTTTT!!”
A body slaps the water. Puddles form and soak into the ground.
A few moments after the air bubbles rise up and breach the surface, so too does a soaking wet hairless ape in a business suit. He climbs out of the landing pool and feels around for his tie, which might as well be plastered to his chesticles right now, and feels disappointed in himself for not thinking of telling Sigmund to add a bunch of buttons to this bad boy before he was swindled into embarking on this fishing trip. Oh well, the buttons on his watch will have to do; after eying the NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST button for a few seconds longer than the narrator is comfortable with, Chuck selects the button that says DRY ME DADDY and feels a plume of hot air escape from within his wristwatch, the gust flooding his suit and dominating his immortal, undying spiritual center as he feels the evil coldness get whisked away, leaving his body and clothing as dry as a mouthful of crackers. Chuck makes a mental note to thank Sigmund for the watch if he doesn’t get eaten by those hillbillies by the end of this ordeal, then he scribbles it out, crumples up the paper because it’s full, gets a new piece of paper, and makes a mental note to wish for a supertie instead.
With a few moments lent to his eyes to adjust to the four or five photons floating in the room, Chuck notices a small area along the wall that is a darker shade of blackness and decides this must be the opening of a tunnel leading out of his cave. Unfortunately, the reality of the landing pool escapes out lost pup of a man and he falls right back in. Expletives echo throughout the cavern for minutes on end.
Chuck eventually maneuvers his way out of his little icewatery damnation and begins walking down the tunnel leading out of his cave. Up until now, Chuck’s claustrophobia has kindly been leaving him alone, the demon off playing by itself in the dark recesses of a demented man’s mind, but that all changes once Chuck becomes fully aware of his present situation. The air gets colder as Chuck’s perception of the future gets gloomier, and he realizes how screwed he seems to be. Not only is this man lost in a cave somewhere in the wilderness of Maine, but he’s lost in a cave underneath another cave, with creepy hillbillies and a stark lack of will to live. He even lost that friendly cat that helped him out of the original cavern… yeesh, too many caverns in this bitch. Every now and then a drop of water will fall down and splash the ground, Chuck flinching wildly as if he expects his imminent doom to be hand-delivered by a water droplet. The air changes at some point and Chuck notices the cavern feeling much more open and welcoming, lifting the bad feelings a few gracious centimeters from his brain. There also seems to be some airflow, as if there’s an opening in the ceiling that someone could fall dow–
Chuck’s train of thought is interrupted when he falls into the landing pool.
That’s right, he wandered himself back into his original room.
What probably amounts to several hours later, Chuck is still a’walk blindly through the tunnel system, silently hoping to himself that mysterious forces won’t turn his unsuspecting ass back around and soak him again. After walking uninterruptedly for longer than he previously thought was possible, Chuck feels the air change again, getting warmer this time, with no airflow coming down from the ceiling. Trying his best to learn from his mistakes, Chuck decides against blindly walking into the darkness, this time fumbling around on the ground for a few rocks first. Once locked and loaded, Chuck launches all his ammo into the space in front of him, listening very carefully for any of the rocks to make a splashing sound. ‘Come on you watery fuck, make my day. Or night. What even is time?’
He never does hear a splash though, only the sound of pebbly rocks a’click’n’clack on slightly moist cave floor.
Chuck opens his stride and trounces through the room without a care in the world, so overfull of confidence and self-esteem that it’s floundering out of his ass in torrents. Seven steps into this new plane of cavernity, however, Chuck is quickly introduced to the cave floor when it reaches up and smacks him in the nose and face. Something had caught Chuck’s leg, something big and bulky and sort of soft, something that’s now gasping for air and was likely just gut-checked from a nap.
Chuck realizes the stupid, fleshy log he just tripped over is Alvey Fratto, the one and only. Alvey is much happier to perceive Chuck than Chuck is Alvey, but given the stupefying circumstances of the current situation, Chuck isn’t trying to sit and complain. Besides, as Alvey reminds him, “There is a job to do.”
Before they embark though, Chuck insists on trying to lure the cat he saw earlier to their current position, as it seemed like a very smart cat. Alvey hesitates at first, but then remembers why the two men are in their current situation in the first place, and decides to humor Chuck. Twenty minutes of literal catcalls later, they leave the cavern, Chuck wishing the best to his AWOL furry friend.
Just as Chuck feared upon meeting him, Alvey is the type of dude who needs to be talking if there’s more than a few minutes of shared silence between him and whoever he’s with, as if peace and quiet disturb him. This fact disturbs Chuck, who silently avoids at least seven attempts at conversation about random subjects ranging from archaic garden gnome colorology to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-dimensional geometric shapes during their trek through the cavern. On more than one occasion, Chuck notices a dip in the ground and fails to say anything to Alvey, who in turn trips and audibly falls over. The poor bastardfallsfor it every time too; if it weren’t for his trusty rubber boots and overalls, his legs would be battered, bloody, and soaking wet. Chuck appreciates the small things in life for a moment before he stops walking and subsequently shushes Alvey’s immediate questioning. Off in the dimly glowing distance, a shadow passes by the mouth of another cavern, a tall and slender shadow that makes it looks like its caster is wearing large pants.
‘They’re waiting for us.’
Chuck, feeling responsible all of a sudden, attempts to explain to Alvey exactly what is probably about to go down in the upcoming cavern, but Alvey will hear nothing of it. Sick of Chucks, “…foolish games and ill-hearted endeavors,” Alvey is now officially assuming control of the two-man escape team. He marches forward, leaving Chuck to either follow him into infinity or stay and rot in the finite cave of darkness.
Or, you know, escape by himself and do literally anything else with his life besides saving Alvey’s homely ass. As he marches away, Alvey realizes just how open-ended he left the situation, but it doesn’t matter; the job must be done.
Chuck decides to stay put and study the situation a little more before he proceeds with the rescue part of this mission. Those hillbilly brothers gave him a major case of the creeps the first time, and that was in well-lit conditions in a cave at least remotely near the surface. The current setting is deliberately more dangerous, what with all parties buried deep in a subterranean cave system and at least one of the hillbillies carrying a very dangerous, metal-cutting secret. Alvey must know about the brothers ‘billy, right? He’s been trapped in the caves for at least as long as Chuck has, so he must have figured out that somebody crashed the plane and Chucknapped them. What’s making Alvey so brave right now, so willing to march towards these dangerous new foes, at least one of which could gut them both like a feish? Chuck’s mind is absolutely boggled.
Moments later, a girlish scream echoes throughout the cavern, helping Chuck come to a conclusion regarding Alvey’s behavior: it came from stupidity, and nowhere else.
Chuck sprints to the next room and beholds quite the terrifying sight: a spacious spaghetti-Western-themed living quarters with two twin beds set up on either side of a strange contraption with straps, pulleys, and far too much velvet crochet. Trying his best to block out the what is obviously a sex swing, Chuck diverts his attention to the slender hillbilly holding Alvey as a human shield in the middle of the room and wonders, without picturing what he looks like, mind you, where on Earth the other one is.
“Heh heh heh, hello theyr Chucky. Suhprised tah see me?”
“Not really, um… uhhhh,” as Chucky snaps his fingers a few times, trying to remember the thing’s name. “Yeah I forget, what was your name again?”
“Whut? Are yew… whut??” Wan shouts out, further tightening his arm around Alvey’s neck. Alvey squirms, but he can’t quite free himself from the hold the hillbilly has on him. Alvey gets a bad feeling that this day shalln’t end well for anybody.
“Yeah, sorry guy, bad memory. Hey, why don’t you just let the little bigboi go and we can talk this out, man to… uh… whatever it is you claim to be.”
“Nahw yew insuhlt me?”
“Wow, you’re smart enough to know you’re being insulted?? Well quintupleslap me maroon and call me… that one lead singer!”
“Yew know I can keel him in one fowl swoop, raight?” A smile that can only be described as dastardly spreads across Wan’s face, revealing all six of his crooked teeth. “Iht’ll be messy too, real bluddy, maight haf t’lick it up my–”
“Stop it, shut up. I’m tired of these gam–”
“Whut did yew jus–”
“I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP! This bullshit’s gone on fucking long enough, I’m getting annoyed. You assholes hired that loser,” pointing at Alvey, “to lure me onto a planeful of innocent civilians, only to crash said planeful of civs and trap us in here. The plan was as convoluted as it was wasteful, you could have just kidnapped me! I’m pretty sure that Albert has nothing to do with this either, he’s just an unlucky moron who you idiots picked up off the street!”
“Ouch…” Alvey quietly says to himself as a tear runs down his face and gets caught in the gap between his neck and Wan’s hairy arm. “My name’s Alvey, Chuck. C’mon, I feel like that was a little intentional.”
“FURTHERMORE, during my travels through this subterranean hellscape I met a cat. An adorable black cat with white fur on his stomach and his feet. It looked like he had little boots, it melted my heart.”
Alvey and Wan look at one another in a very confused manner. Then, approaching with caution, Wan begins to speak. “Whut are yew talkin’ abaut?”
“YOU know DAMN,” pause, “WELL! The point issss, you two hillbilly fucks have caused me some inconveniences, on top of some heartache. You have literally twenty seconds to let Alvey go and point us in the right direction, or else there will be consequences.”
Wan guffaws at this, loosening his grip ‘round Alvey just long enough for some hope to flow through his veins before immediately tightening it again. Chuck looks significantly less amused.
“I told you before, trying to keep me here won’t go well.”
“Whut exactly do yew think yer gunna do, heuh? Whut’s gunna happen when I slit this fatty’s throat, Chucky?”
“Nothing, because I’m going to shoot you in the fucking face before you get the chance. Ten seconds.”
“Yew know whut? Ahm gettin’ real tierd ah yew, Chuck. We go threw all ‘dis, so much trubble to get yew here and talk to ya, and yew won’t even hear us aut. Yew jus’ yell an’ cawl us names and, and, yew act liek yer in control here.”
Chuck raises a sole eyebrow at this statement, the caterpillar peeking out from behind his sunglasses to wave hello.
“Well let me tell YEW, Chucky, that yew ain’t. Yew ain’t in control naow, yew weren’t in control on dat plane, yew weren’t in cont–”
Wan’s statement is interrupted when a ball of blue energy bores through his skull in a split second, entering right betwixt his eyes and exiting above his spinal column. Wan’s lifeless body flops back and hits the ground with a thud, followed by the accompanying THUD from Alvey. Chuck raises his hand, held in the shape of a finger gun, up to his mouth and blows the smoke drifting from the barrel of the metal construct that took the place of his index finger. Alvey stands up, takes in his surroundings, and begins screaming all sorts of questions at Chuck. The screaming only ceases when Alvey realizes Chuck is now aiming the finger gun directly at him, giving Alvey a wonderful view of the small glowing light that can (and will) deliver shmaltzy death with free shipping.
“Okay, okay, Mister Leary, I–”
“Chuck is fine.”
“Uh, Chuck, I… look, please don’t shoot me, I didn’t know any of this was going to happen, I-I-I don’t even know who you are. And I sure didn’t know about that. I’m jus–”
Chuck raises his unarmed hand to his mouth and presses his pinky finger to his lips, making a shhhhh noise. Alvey takes the hint.
“The thing is Alvey, I don’t know you, either; as of right now, I don’t care to. Plus, I only have seven shots left in these bad boys, you think I’m going to waste one on you? C’mon now Alvey, just… c’mon now.”
Chuck’s finger gun disarms, the blue glow fading away as his finger reconstructs itself to look like a normal finger. He offers a hand to Alvey and pulls the poor sap to his feet. The pair only have a few seconds to themselves to search their surroundings for a way out before something ricochets off a distant wall, the resulting ding echoing throughout the cave system as quietly as a mouse when it shits. Chuck freezes, socks in his shoes, but Alvey doesn’t seem to notice the disturbance until it’s followed by four more increasingly louder dings. Alvey notices Chuck staring at an opening near the ceiling of the cave, the stalactites were even cleared from the ceiling at some point, very convenient for the spinning mass that comes flying out of the opening moments later. Chuck ducks for cover as Alvey just stands there mesmerized as he watches the thing zoom around the walls of the cavern as if it was a supersonic armadillo.
The beast eventually makes contact with the ground and begins circling the dynamic duo, whipping up a whirlwind of a dust storm that Chuck didn’t think was possible given the dankly moistened conditions of the cave. The dust storm continues after the rolling noise stops, the sandscreen blotting out every last trace of visibility left in the cave. The only useful sensory input Chuck receives is the HURK that Alvey releases amidst the chaos. Standing his ground, Chuck readies his finger guns for, quote, ‘Whatever the fuck is about to come next,’ unquote.
Eventually the dust settles. A myriad of rocks, twigs, and small droplets of water previously a’flight in the air all simultaneously hit the ground. The resulting noise is a fustercluck of snaps, clicks, splashes and a small giggle, the giggle of course accompanied by the undertones of an almost evil laugh.
When sight returns to him, Chuck begins to make out an oblong and slightly goblin-ish shape through the lighter bits of dust still suspended in the air. The goblin, who seems to have grabbed Alvey, is frantically looking around the room for something (or someone) whilst effortlessly keeping the Alvey at bay.
Unable to take the suspense anymore, Chuck breaks the silence with, “Hey! Cookie, right?”
The being stops searching and sets his gaze upon Chuck, almost smiling, nay, grimacing at this point. The being opens its mouth and unleashes an indescribably pleasant sound, articulating only three words: “It’s Tooki, asshole.”
“Ayyyy! He called me out for it, wow! Hey your brother’s dead by the way, I shot him in the fucking face after being forced to listen to him speak.”
Tooki’s entire demeanor changes at this remark, his body going completely stiff. Alvey notices this too, but only when he becomes very uncomfortable and begins gasping for air. “You… did what?”
“You heard me, heillbeilly! I shot him, right between the beady little eyes, and he dropped like a sack of unborn fetuses. You should have seen him, acting all tough, like he was going to actually hurt me or my… uh… friend, you have there.” Almost unable to contain his own laughter while saying all this, Chuck points to a dusty and debris-covered lump off to the side of the commotion. “If you want to pay your respects or eat upon his flesh or whatever it is you billhilly fuckers do, he’s laying over there.”
Tooki immediately drops (read: throws) Alvey and sprints over to the decomposing corpse of his brother whose head wound isn’t even bleeding on account of the cauterizing properties of Chuck’s ammunition. Chuck makes a move towards Alvey but decides to stand his ground and watch the freakshow unfold instead. Alvey notices this and starts feeling really bad about himself.
After a few minutes of mumbled garbling and grieving, Tooki leans down close to his brother. All is silent as anticipation grips the air by the testicles, but Chuck stands ready, finger guns primed and brain alert to perceive any slight twinges in the air that may lead to movement. Alvey’s managed to crawl over to the edge of the room and lean himself up against the wall, giving himself a wide view of the two apparent psychopaths sharing his current airspace. If there were tumbleweeds in this cave they would be tumbling on by, but there isn’t so they’re not. The most suspenseful part: this goes on for ten endless minutes, the only movement being attributed to Tooki’s slightly bobbing head.
“Okay I can’t take this anymore, YO TOOKI!” Chuck says and then YELLs, breaking the silence like a plasmic energy bullet breaks a skull. “Look bigshit, I’m not knocking you for grieving, but I’m a very important man with drastically less important things to do, and I’m sure Alvey wants to scoot, too. Can you just show us the exit?”
No reply. Tooki stays by his brother, head bobbing up and down every few seconds, leaving Chuck to be ignored just like when he lived with his da–… actually, never mind, I invoked that dude’s presence enough in the first part. Chuck doesn’t love to be ignored so he approaches the remaining hillbilly slowly, finger at the ready, and attempts to speak with him. This attempt is thrown into the wind when Tooki suddenly turns to face Chuck, who reactively screams out, “WHAT THE FUCK??!?!?!?!?” before firing off three of his remaining shots. All three miss and Chuck curses at himself as he sprints to the far side of the wall in order to create space between him and… whatever the hell that thing is that he needs to kill. Alvey, who’s now wiping the vomit off his pant legs, would have reacted in similar fashion if he was standing, but he’s not. This whateveritis, carrying the nomenclature Tooki, remains standing over his dead brother Wan with a broad, blood-splattered Cheshire grin gleaming across his face. He opens his mouth, which is now filled with shark-like teeth, and continues devouring the fallen hillbilly until all that remains are a pair of bloody overalls and a severed head with a hole in it. Tooki, tummy full, stands up as straight as the hunch in his back will allow, and prepares to address his audience. Chuck beats him to the punch.
“What in the actual living, breathing, son of a FUCK was that?? You fucking ATE HIM??? All obvious things wrong with this aside, do you realize how difficult it’s going to be for me not to see all future hillbillies as cannibals after this? COME ON, MAN!”
Tooki, the bloodlust getting to his head, laughs maniacally and nearly falls over whilst simultaneously catching himself upright. The manthing is laughing as if he was told he won the lottery ten seconds after being called a worthless piece of shit by his boss, I mean really dying here. Then, suddenly, the laughing ceases and his face goes from joyous to absolutely deranged. Tooki holds up one of his hands for Chuck to see, then he closes his eyes and begins… changing. Three black spikes grow out from the webbing between his fingers as his fingernails also begin sporting similar, yet shorter black spikes. The beast grows his claws until they’re uniform with his fingernails (fingerclaws?), at which point the eerie grinding and clicking noises stop emanating from within his body. Chuck, paying his complete and undivided attention to the hillbilly’s hand, almost misses all the spikes protruding at many various angles from Tooki’s body as well, the Hunchback Of Lake Wantooki looking more like a radioactive hedgehog on steroids than anything else.
“Well, shall we get started?” the erinaceous creature exclaims as he jumps up, grabs his legs, and curls himself up in a ball like that armadillo I made mention of earlier. The foe begins spinning in pace faster than Chuck has ever seen a tire spin, then it leaps. Chuck jumps out of the way just in time to dodge the spinning spikeball as it zooms him by and starts rolling up the wall, the spikes penetrating the rockface like it was cheese. Tooki blazes across the ceiling and down the opposite wall in order to smash into Chuck, who lets off a bolt of energy towards the rolling ball of death. The shot ricochets off Tooki and makes contact with a huge stalagmite, smashing it into a hailstorm of tiny stalagy shards. The shot wasn’t totally ineffective though, it seems to have slowed down Tooki’s spinning enough for Chuck to get a glimpse of where exactly the hillbilly’s head hides when he/it engages tire mode.
Tooki regains speed by doing a few laps around the cavernous chamber, building momentum until he has the physical forces lined up just right to launch himself through the air at Chuck. Chuck, of course, leaps and does a backflip, firing off two more shots in midair at his nefarious hedgehog foe. One shot misses and bores a hole into the ground which causes a small cave-in, revealing yet another level of tunnels below them lit up with electronic torches set ablaze with faux fire made from lightbulbs and fabric. ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ The other shot makes direct contact with Tooki, but it hits him in the hunch so he doesn’t feel it.
Alvey stands up to join in the fray but promptly falls back down when Tooki spins past him and one of his longer body spikes slices into his pencil of a calf.
Chuck runs over to give Alvey a hand, narrowly dodging Tooki as he flies by for seconds, thirds, fourths, and then fuckin’ dessert. Deciding that hauling Alvey out of the cave will surely get him killed, Chuck instead throws Alvey towards the wall and fires off another shot towards Tooki. He groans as he watches his shot miss its target, rejoicing when the stray plasma decimates the sex swing where it once stood.
Chuck spins around just in time to cartwheel out of Tooki’s way. Now the maniac’s headed straight for the incapacitated Alvey.
Chuck screams, “ALVEY MOVE!” before firing a blue streak through the airspace, the somewhat physical bullet miraculously landing in one of Tooki’s legs. The beast lets loose an ear-piercing shriek that forces Alvey to fall to the ground and cover his ears. A little energy bullet isn’t going to slow Tooki down though, he just punches the ground with his forehead a few times, then screams into the dirt, and he’s good as new! Leaving a few small craters in his wake, Tooki rolls back up and barrels towards Alvey.
In one swift move, Tooki un-armadillos himself, grabs Alvey, and proceeds to roll back up and zip around the room some more. Chuck grabs the bridge of his nose before mumbling, “Idiot,” to himself and leaping back a few feet to put some distance between himself and the rolling menace. After taking a few laps around the suited wonder, Tooki unrolls once again and holds Alvey as a human meat shield. All parties are quiet as Tooki and Chuck stare each other down and Alvey tries his very best to retain bladder control.
“What is this, a fuckin’ old-timey Mexican standoff?” Chuck half asks and half states, breaking the silence with his agitation. “Give me the human and I’ll let you walk out of here alive, and I’ll only tell a few other humans about that cannibal shit.”
Tooki releases a bellowing laughter that forces Alvey to fail his previous mission. “You really are something, Charles. I’d like you to know that you were selected randomly for this little experiment; when Mister Fratto contacted you, he dialed a completely random phone number, and when you picked up, his car tracked the signal and drove itself to your doorstep. We needed a meaty dummy to test our abilities on, Wan and myself, and who could have guessed we’d get someone as formidable as you! Here you are, stranded inside a mysterious cave, fighting against a literal monster who’s holding your only companion hostage, and you’re out of ammunition! Yi–”
“I still have one shot left, watch your mouth.”
Chuck doesn’t like when hillbilli make presumptions about him.
“No you don’t! I heard what you said before I entered the arena, and I’ve been keeping count; you’re dry, Charles, yet you still stand here barking your words at me, trying to intimidate me as if there’s even a miniscule chance you’ll leave this cave today. How do you do it, keeping such a steeled demeanor whilst standing a few feet from your own death?? We crashed your plane, Chuck, it’s over for you.”
“It’s actually easy, oh-kay, helps to not consume fucking human fucking beings. Also, I’m not going to die, thought I was pretty clear on that. There is no over, there is no end. Life just goes the fuck on.”
“Now how on Earth does all that have anything to do with this conversation? I realize the cannibalism may be unorthodox where you come from, Chuck, so allow me to explain. You see, by eating upon Wan’s flesh, I consume and metabolize his DNA, which, like mine, is enhan–”
“Yeah I don’t fucking care. I meant the fact that you consume humans means that you’re a stupid backwoods hillbilly fuck who’s so far gone that he got tired of dining on squirrels and graduated to humans. Also, this.”
Chuck fires off a shot that penetrates Alvey’s left shoulder and tears through Tooki’s body, leaving a smoldering tunnel of flesh in its wake. Both targets scream and drop to the floor, Tooki’s scream much more blood-curdling than Alvey’s. Chuck runs over to check on Alvey, who seems to be doing just fine save for the multiple flesh wounds and stanky vomit stains. At least he isn’t bleeding profusely, right? Chuck looks back up at where the spiky hedgehog monster thing was lain a few seconds ago, but the spot is now empty. While normally Chuck’d be quite concerned at a fact like this, he instead focuses his attention at the light shining through a doorway that seems to lead out of the cavern. He can see bright green leaves and darker green pine needles covering what appears to be a shimmering yet slightly murky bluegreen lake. The only thought passing through Chuck’s head is, ‘How the fuck did I not notice that before?’
After taking a moment to straighten his tie and fix his suit jacket, Chuck kneels down and attempts to lift the Alvey up to his feet. This attempt proves futile, Alvey’s weight and lack of want for help act as something of a barricade between Chuck and what Chuck wants to do. After telling Alvey to, “Fuck off and die, then,” Chuck stands and walks towards the exit, the light seeming to get brighter and brighter with each step. Feeling the pull of the outside world and the inviting warmth of the sun’s rays, Chuck breaks into a run, and just when he’s about to breathe in some fresh air, another scream erupts from behind him. With an air of impatience filling his lungs, Chuck turns around and finds Tooki plummeting directly towards him.
In the matter of a forthwith instant, Chuck’s mind puts together what happened: upon being penetrated by pure energy, Tooki made a break for it, climbing up a wall and crawling into the ceiling tunnel through which he previously entered. From there, he likely activated some sort of button that opened up the cave’s exit, which would be a perfect distraction to take Chuck’s attention away from the fight at hand. Then, waiting for the perfect moment, Tooki would leap down from his hidey hole and shred Chuck into many easily grillable pieces so he could eat upon the suited man’s flesh before moving on to a Fratto-flavored dessert.
Unfortunately for Mister Tooki, Chuck lied multiple times about the infinite number of energy bullets available for him to generate and then use in his cybernetically enhanced hands, and he shoots the living shit out of Tooki’s spikey cranium. Chuck calmly steps to the side as the beast crashes to the floor dead, the wounds where his head once was still aglow when the body stops grinding against the moist, rocky cave floor. Chuck simply shakes his head and continues his leaving of the cave, hands in his pockets, finger guns disengaged for what he hopes will be the last time this week.
And that, as they say, is that.
The Middle Of The Woods
After hiking through more forest than he previously believed was between the cave entrance and the lake, Chuck finds a nice rock to sit on and begins skipping stones across the shimmering oasis. It’s a beautiful summer day, the previous day’s overcast cleared up to let the sun’s glorious rays meet the Earth’s surface. The minute Chuck got out of the cavern, his superwatch connected to the myriad of Cape satellites floating around the outer atmosphere and no less than thirty-seven distress signals were sent out. Oh yeah, by the way, Chuck checked the GPS and, as it just so happens, Lake Wantooki is actually in New Hampshire, not Maine. Fuckin’ Alvey Fratto.
Anyway, now Chuck’s just waiting to be picked up, soaking in the harmonious silence that is an ecosystem at work. Until, that is, a few moments later when Chuck hears a loud rumbling approaching him from the forest and fears the worst: more fucking hillbillies.
Fortuitously enough, the rumbling is not caused by a band of angry hillbillies but by a lone man riding a four-wheeler through the woods. The man parks his vehicle and unstraps a fishing rod before turning and noticing the strange man in a suit sitting at his favorite Wantooki fishing spot. The man unstraps his backup fishing rod and walks over to sit next to Chuck.
“Dude,” the man says, “what are you doin’ with a suit on down here? We’re in the middle of the woods.”
“Huh? Oh, sorry, didn’t see ya there. Yeah, it’s just kind of my thing.” Chuck turns his head and gives the man an ocular patdown, deducing this wanderer has nothing more dangerous than a golden heart. “What are you doing down here in all camo everything?”
The man chuckles. “Fair enough. I have a spare pole, want to join me for a few casts? Uhh–”
“Chuck,” our hero interjects. “You can call me Chuck. After the night I’ve had, sure, I’d love to do some fishing.”
Chuck takes the pole and the two make casts into, as evidenced by the lack of fish swimming in the man’s waterfilled cooler, what is probably a fishless and dead lake, bringing back nothing but algae, a couple waterlogged sticks, and an old boot. Suddenly, Chuck has a moment of intuition.
“Hold on, I have som’n that’ll make this better,” as he reaches into an inner suit pocket and pulls out a slightly bent joint. “Ayyy it’s still here, lit. You smoke, man? Got a light?”
The man stares at Chuck with a serious look on his face for a few seconds before looking back and forth, as if he was checking his surroundings. “Yeah, fuck it. Why not? I’m Mike by the way, my kids call me Mikey.”
Mikey digs through his backpack and pulls out a grill lighter before taking the joint from Chuck and popping it between his teeth to spark it with a click rather than a Qiccy flick. The two new friends burn some herbs and drown their bait for about an hour before Chuck’s watch starts going off. Mikey comments on how cool the technology is as Chuck pulls out a small earpiece with a microphone on it. A few seconds later, Chuck stands and bids the fisherman a fond farewell, telling him he can finish the joint.
Chuck walks off into the forest in the direction of the nearest trail, then stops to shout out, “By the way, there’s a dude back in one of the caves that I didn’t mention to you. He’s got a hole in his shoulder; he’ll probably be fine, but some help wouldn’t hurt him. Also, there’s probably a dead body in there, maybe a severed head too, just in case you decide to go lookin’. Okay, bye Mikey!!”
A distressed Gary climbs an unrelenting eighteen flights of stairs until he finds himself on the roof of the headquarters. After some brief breath catching, he approaches a stoic President Hymarc, his gray ponytail flowing as the wind whistles around him.
“Sir, the vitals from the brothers just dropped off,” he begins, his voice trembling like a dead tree in a twister. “I… I think they were eliminated.”
Hymarc nods his head before turning around to face his MERC. “That’s the thing about science experiments like you, my One. The results can be replicated. Report to The Good Doctor at once, he’ll handle this.”
As Gary braces himself to fly back down the stairs, Hymarc turns and resumes staring off across the city. From his vantage point he can see it all, every square inch of this city, but his eyes are locked on one thing only: that curious purple tower, the only one taller than his own.